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COVID-19 eviction complaints up, CDC moratorium offers some protection

If an eviction notice is not court-ordered, it is considered illegal.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The pandemic is taking its toll on health and personal finances. Businesses are struggling, if not closing, and landlords are being feeling it in the gut as more and more tenants are unable to pay their rent.

"I ran into some financial difficulties," said Brian Jimerson. "I was working when I moved in, but because of COVID-19 my job ceased."

Now Jimerson is facing an eviction.

"For non payment of rent, I have no lease. I am month-to-month," Jimerson said.

Duval County Clerk of Courts records show that Jimerson had a similar landlord tenant issue in 2019, but there is no record of an eviction filing for this case.

"I just got another job and I would like to resume payments," said Jimerson.

Since the start of the pandemic eviction filings have been many. 

The exact number of evictions filed statewide was 47,484, according to the Office of the State Courts Administrator. That represents new evictions filings made from Mar. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. 

"Once the governor's moratorium expired eviction cases were being filed and they continue to be filed," said Attorney Suzanne Garrow.

Garrow runs Jacksonville Legal Aid Housing unit. She said they are seeing more and more eviction complaints.

"Only the courts can order an eviction, any other eviction by a landlord is illegal, and their 'self-help' efforts of removing doors and cutting utilities are illegal," Garrow said.

Garrow said the CDC has a moratorium on evictions in place until March 31,2021. It offers tenants some protections.

"You have to know what they are and you have to trigger those protections," said Garrow.

To qualify for the eviction protections, you must meet these five criteria:

 1) You have used your best efforts to apply for all available government assistance for rent or housing.

 2) You are income eligible because: § You expect your income to be less than $99,000 ($198,000 if filing jointly), or § You had zero income for tax purposes in 2019, or § You received a stimulus check during the pandemic.

 3) You are unable to pay rent due to substantial income loss (e.g., reduction in hours or laid off) or extraordinary medical expenses. 

4) You are using your best efforts to make timely partial payments to your landlord when possible.

 5) You would become homeless if evicted (e.g., shelter, or having to move in with other friends or family members in close quarters because you have no other options) 

 "You must give your landlord the declaration form that you qualify under these terms and then you must file it with the court," Garrow explained.

There are other protections under the federal CARES act that prohibits landlords from charging fees and penalties.

To learn more eviction protections and your rights, you can tap this link. You can also download the declaration form below.